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The Best-Loved Son cycle

By:Isabeau
 February, 23 2006

Anything dealing with this cycle of stories can be discussed here: Andra and Boromir as a couple, the Denethor/Imrahil/Andrahar rivalry, the politics of Gondor in the last days of the Third Age.


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53 replies


 [1] Hi Isabeau,

I don't know where to best address comments to the chapters you've posted for the current writing project, but since Imrahil, Denethor & Andrahar feature heavily, this seemed like a good place.

I saw that you put in a caveat at the top of the third chapter, that you weren't too sure about Denethor. I thought the confrontation between him and Imrahil was very well done. It was nice to see a more aggressive, edgier side to Imrahil -- barking at the clerk, having to hold himself in check lest he throttle Denethor.

And who else but Imrahil could give a realistic assessment of the Steward: that he was no longer a warrior in any real sense, that he hadn't seen to the practical matters of defending Gondor in the months and years leading up to the war, that he allowed his pride or insecurity to dictate some of his moves, which included sending a son whom he really did love to certain death. In the Princes of Dol Amroth discussion I remarked that I don't get the sense that you indulge in much foreshadowing, but here I think you did a fine job showing that Denethor wasnt' just a mean-spirited lunatic, but was an intelligent, lonely, and heavily burdened man who was out-of-touch with the world around him, and the practical aspect of the danger that approached. I don't know if I'd call that foreshadowing, or just illustrating the likely earliest manifestations of Denethor's final descent into madness and despair, but however you look at it I thought it well done.

Unless I misread RoTK, one of Denethor's greatest feats perhaps proved to be his undoing. If nothing else, perhaps Denethor's confrontations with Sauron via the palantír overwhelmed him and blinded him to the necessity of preparing against the smaller, less powerful beings who would actually be acting against Gondor on Sauron's behalf. Denethor did seem to see himself as locked in a struggle "a deux" with Sauron -- the armies and defenses of each seemed to be almost afterthoughts to him. His worry about what the Enemy would think if Osgiliath and the Pelennor were undefended are perhaps a symptom of that. And Imrahil would rightly be baffled by such thoughts -- who gives a fig what the Enemy thinks? But it's not unreasonable given Denethor's experiences, which only he really knows about. Kind of the story of the guy's life. Difficult to like him -- I don't -- but you can't make him out to just be a bullying, insecure, power-mad lunatic. I subscribe to Altariel's theory that from an early age Denethor was probably misunderstood and unappreciated by the people around him, including his father. Gotta feel sorry for the guy, but there are limits, as Imrahil points out.

My typically long-winded way of saying I thought it fit well.

Rebecca
Posted:Mar 11, 2006 16:27 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [2] Well said, Rebecca - your comments about Imrahil and Denethor's confrontation were spot-on to what I thought as well. I hadn't thought very much about Denethor seeing "himself as locked in a struggle a deux with Sauron" but it does help flesh out more of this complex and unlikeable character and his actions (or lack thereof).

I wonder how much of what Imrahil spelled out to Denethor about their different relationships with Faramir ended up helping tip Denethor over the edge when Faramir was brought back near death. Not that his despair needed much help, of course.

Denise
Posted:Mar 11, 2006 18:57 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [3] I wonder how much of what Imrahil spelled out to Denethor about their different relationships with Faramir ended up helping tip Denethor over the edge when Faramir was brought back near death. Not that his despair needed much help, of course.

Very good question. Perhaps it's what moved him to try to immolate Faramir along with himself: "So, Imrahil, you think I don't love my youngest son? I love him so much that I won't let the Enemy get him!"

Ohhh. Just thought of a question I'd been wondering about a long time ago. Will post it in the Hethlin discussion since it pertains to CMC.

Rebecca
Posted:Mar 11, 2006 21:56 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [4] Rebecca wrote: I don't know where to best address comments to the chapters you've posted for the current writing project, but since Imrahil, Denethor & Andrahar feature heavily, this seemed like a good place.

I think it's just fine.

I saw that you put in a caveat at the top of the third chapter, that you weren't too sure about Denethor. I thought the confrontation between him and Imrahil was very well done. It was nice to see a more aggressive, edgier side to Imrahil -- barking at the clerk, having to hold himself in check lest he throttle Denethor.

That was all the new stuff. In the original, pre-Discovery version, he had been carefully conciliatory all the way through. But at that point, he hadn't been blackmailed, threatened with death for Andra or any of it. I re-wrote parts of it extensively yesterday before I posted it, and I think that the inclusion of the edgier Imrahil actually solved a couple of flow issues I had before.

but here I think you did a fine job showing that Denethor wasnt' just a mean-spirited lunatic, but was an intelligent, lonely, and heavily burdened man who was out-of-touch with the world around him, and the practical aspect of the danger that approached. I don't know if I'd call that foreshadowing, or just illustrating the likely earliest manifestations of Denethor's final descent into madness and despair, but however you look at it I thought it well done.

I am very happy to hear this! I did want it to just hint at the fact that he's not too tightly wrapped at this point, that he's worn out and grief-stricken. I don't like Denethor, but I think what PJ did to him in the movie was an abomination. In Hethverse, I think he's always been envious about Imrahil's easy rapport with Faramir and Boromir, he is aware that the three of them all conspire together to get around his authority from time to time and he hates that.

Imrahil really isn't very nice here-letting Denethor think that he has foreseen something without answering him is a bit of a cheap shot, but then, he's very vexed at his failure to rescue Faramir.


My typically long-winded way of saying I thought it fit well.

Yay!


Posted:Mar 12, 2006 07:14 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [5] Denise wrote: I wonder how much of what Imrahil spelled out to Denethor about their different relationships with Faramir ended up helping tip Denethor over the edge when Faramir was brought back near death. Not that his despair needed much help, of course.

I think it probably did contribute a bit. Particularly when Imrahil carries him back off the field and recounts Faramir's deeds to him. And that was the effect I was trying for.


Posted:Mar 12, 2006 07:16 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [6]  I don't like Denethor, but I think what PJ did to him in the movie was an abomination.

I agree. There was an undercurrent of violence and barbarism that was completely at odds with the character Tolkien described. One of my most disliked scenes in the trilogy is Denethor's rather obscene consumption of his meal -- it conveyed all the wrong things about him. PJ made him overtly menacing and rather stupid, and I highly doubt he was either of those.

In Hethverse, I think he's always been envious about Imrahil's easy rapport with Faramir and Boromir, he is aware that the three of them all conspire together to get around his authority from time to time and he hates that.

Yes, I think that really fits with the overall problems that Denethor and his sons faced. Between the two of them Denethor and Imrahil probably in some ways made things worse for Faramir, because if Denethor hadn't (correctly) perceived that Imrahil, albeit somewhat innocently, enjoyed making mischief at his expense with Faramir as a willing ally, Denethor might not have taken *such* a sour view of Faramir. But of course, Denethor set Imrahil's back up with his dislike of Faramir, moving Imrahil to ally himself with Faramir, against Denethor. Neither man seems to have had possessed the insight to see what was really driving the other vis a vis Faramir, perhaps because they were such different people.

Rebecca
Posted:Mar 12, 2006 09:41 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [7] Isabeau: Imrahil really isn't very nice here...

Well, he is human, despite all his fine qualities, and he too is worn-out and grief-stricken. I agree completely with Rebecca that it was enjoyable to see Imrahil at something besides his usual impeccable best. It fills out his character nicely to see him lose it or make mistakes once in a while.

Denise
Posted:Mar 12, 2006 18:52 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [8] I've always thought it a bit peculiar that Denethor figured out very early that Sauron was going to make his move on Minas Tirith at some point during his stewardship, yet hadn't seemed to have physically shored up the White City's defenses at the time of ROTK - they're only just repairing the Rammas, their cavalry consists mainly of Imrahil's Swan Knights (when Denethor had decades to create one for the White City itself), there are no alliances other than Rohan, etc. Denethor's preoccupation with mano-a-mano Palantir-wrestling with Sauron might explain his lack of attention to trying to physically defend Minas Tirith, not to mention Ithilien and the rest of Gondor.

I see Ecthelion as a very different and less subtle type than Denethor, who probably basically loved Denethor, but had no clue how to handle his brilliant, possibly shy, and rather prickly son.

Denethor is also one of the most isolated, if not THE most isolated Men in LOTR. He doesn't seem to have any friends, much less valued advisors; it's just him and his palantir, plus beloved, but dead, Boromir. And Faramir is caught between being Denethor's scapegoat and Boromir-replacement; Denethor can't seem to see him in different terms, as his own man.

But then, I still think Denethor is something of a control freak by nature; and much of his tragedy was self-instigated, sad to say.



RAKSHA THE DEMON
Posted:Apr 25, 2006 20:40 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [9] Raksha wrote (Hi Raksha!)-I've always thought it a bit peculiar that Denethor figured out very early that Sauron was going to make his move on Minas Tirith at some point during his stewardship, yet hadn't seemed to have physically shored up the White City's defenses at the time of ROTK - they're only just repairing the Rammas

I always thought that was odd too, though I did wonder, once Sauron's guys waltzed through it, why they had bothered.

their cavalry consists mainly of Imrahil's Swan Knights (when Denethor had decades to create one for the White City itself)

That, I think, is because of that weird thing they keep saying about the Gondorians not being good with horses. But I'll agree with you that that shouldn't have stopped him from learning...That great big flat place all around the City cried out for cavalry. I do perhaps make Imrahil & Co. better horsemen than they might actually be in canon, but then canon doesn't say they're bad either, and it does make a bit of a fuss over the knights.

there are no alliances other than Rohan, etc.

I'm not sure who else they'd be allying with, other than the folks up in Erebor. Unless you think Denethor should have made an effort to bring the Dunlanders over to his side. Courting them early on would have certainly made life for Rohan a lot better. They wouldn't have even had to fight-just stay out of things. Though I will say I've never understood why the Dunlanders were in such bad shape-from the map, it looks like they had gobs of land and it was good land.

Denethor's preoccupation with mano-a-mano Palantir-wrestling with Sauron might explain his lack of attention to trying to physically defend Minas Tirith, not to mention Ithilien and the rest of Gondor.

Snerk! I suppose that's possible. Was thinking he could do it all by himself...

I see Ecthelion as a very different and less subtle type than Denethor, who probably basically loved Denethor, but had no clue how to handle his brilliant, possibly shy, and rather prickly son.

Me too. I think Ecthelion's more like Boromir, and that may be why Denethor loves his first-born so much.

Denethor is also one of the most isolated, if not THE most isolated Men in LOTR. He doesn't seem to have any friends, much less valued advisors; it's just him and his palantir, plus beloved, but dead, Boromir. And Faramir is caught between being Denethor's scapegoat and Boromir-replacement; Denethor can't seem to see him in different terms, as his own man.

Yes, that's sort of strange when you think about it. I wonder if it was always the case, or if he withdrew from everyone after Finduilas died and he started heavy into palantir usage.

But then, I still think Denethor is something of a control freak by nature; and much of his tragedy was self-instigated, sad to say.

No argument from me on that one!


Posted:Apr 27, 2006 06:34 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [10] Raksha writes: I've always thought it a bit peculiar that Denethor figured out very early that Sauron was going to make his move on Minas Tirith at some point during his stewardship, yet hadn't seemed to have physically shored up the White City's defenses at the time of ROTK ... Denethor's preoccupation with mano-a-mano Palantir-wrestling with Sauron might explain his lack of attention to trying to physically defend Minas Tirith, not to mention Ithilien and the rest of Gondor.

Yes, I asked in Altariel's blog what the nature of communication via palantír is, because things like this don't make sense if the palantír shows the user whatever he or she wishes to see. Good case in point raised by Amy in The Princes of Dol Amroth thread:

Amy writes: How come Saruman doesn't know about the Heir of Isildur? Why didn't Sauron see, in the palantir, the Fellowship coming down the river in their boats?

I'd been thinking that maybe the palantíri were kind of videophones (very loose analogy) wherein one user could only see things shown to him/her by another user. That was contested and it probably isn't the right way to think about the palantíri, but I still can't make sense of why there were such limitations on the knowledge of users of the palantíri, if in fact the stones could show a skilled user anything.

Anyway, whatever the nature of palantír-facilitated communication, it seems to me that it was one of Sauron's greatest tools in the Third Age. I wonder if Saruman would have been snared into Sauron's web if he hadn't attempted to use the palantír at Orthanc. I think the fact that Denethor managed to at least resist "going over to the dark side," despite years of struggling against Sauron via a palantír, attests to his strength of character. Perhaps Saruman already had malice or a hunger for power in his heart, and that's why he was susceptible while Denethor managed more or less to resist. Or maybe malice was the only difference between Denethor and Saruman, because it seems pretty clear that Denethor had a lust for power... Poor, unlikeable Denethor!

Rebecca
Posted:Apr 27, 2006 11:05 GMT  Reply to this Comment
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